Question for people who have traveled to Italy

  • #1
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I'm going to Italy in September and I need advice from people who have been there on what I should do about travel within the country. I planned on renting a car, but I keep reading that driving in the big cities can be a huge headache, battling the traffic and finding parking, and in a place like Venice, you can't drive at all. But at the same time, driving a car gives me the option to explore little towns and villages and it allows me to carry all my stuff with me. I don't know how I would carry all my things with me traveling around the country if I didn't have a car. Any advice? Thank you
 

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  • #2
DaveE
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We did that a few decades ago and it worked out fine. We would drive between cities, then when we got to the big cities we would park the car and ignore it, using public transport instead.
Why ask this in a physics forum? You will probably get better advice on some travel related website.
 
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  • #3
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I planned on renting a car, but I keep reading that driving in the big cities can be a huge headache, battling the traffic and finding parking, and in a place like Venice, you can't drive at all.
This depends on where you're from. If you are used to Madrid's traffic then you will have no problems. If you are used to traffic in small towns, or even used to American traffic (outside Chicago, LA, and NYC), then you will be lost. I cannot recommend driving in Italian's big cities if this is the first time you do something similar. Rent a Vespa!
We did that a few decades ago and it worked out fine. We would drive between cities, then when we got to the big cities we would park the car and ignore it, using public transport instead.
This is a good idea.
 
  • #4
Vanadium 50
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You don't say how much space "all my things" take up, but if this is limiting your ability to tour, perhaps you should consider bringing less. A good rule of thumb is "bring half as much stuff and twice as much money", to which I will add "repeat as necessary".
 
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  • #5
epenguin
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You can hire cars to suit yourself. E.g. you can hire for one for a whole 10 days, or if your programme is different hire for two days, interrupts for two days to stay in a place, And then hire another. Better plan & book a bit before. The way I like to explore a region, is book one hotel is one place for 2-5 days and radiate in car visiting a different place or more every day. Don't try to do too much! Specially as you don't seem to have the knack of travelling light! Don't leave your stuff in the car. Try and book hotels with their own preferably closed parking. Don't try to do too much! I don't know how long your holiday is, but Venice is half a holiday.I think people do well in Italy (and other places for that matter) to go to the smaller places, not just the big famous ones. You mention Venice, the Veneto-Padovan, region is outstandingly well supplied for small highly visitable places. Then you do need the car to get between them.
 
  • #6
Klystron
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My granddaughter travels to Italy once a year usually entering via land from France. When she was competing on robotics teams, they hired vans to haul the equipment, people and luggage. Her group often stayed in youth hostels and even camping grounds for immersion in European culture.

Now in college she flies to London and takes trains to other countries, sometimes staying with friends she made on previous visits. They use local transportation and rentals depending on the country and weather. She tells me cities in France, Belgium and the Netherlands are very bicycle friendly while Italian cities can be explored on foot, jumping on public transportation as required. In her opinion Rome is more fun for her age group than Venice.
 
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  • #7
jtbell
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Definitely think hard about how much “all your stuff” really needs to be. When my wife and I travel overseas or anywhere else we have to fly to, we each take one wheeled suitcase (checked bag) and one shoulder bag (carry-on bag; for me it’s my camera bag). We have no problem managing that stuff when we use public transport over there.

Make sure to leave enough space in your bags for stuff you buy over there and don’t ship back here for some reason.
 
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  • #8
DrClaude
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We did that a few decades ago and it worked out fine. We would drive between cities, then when we got to the big cities we would park the car and ignore it, using public transport instead.
Good suggestion.

I have driven in Tuscany, including Florence and Pisa, and it was ok, but parking can indeed be difficult. I would be hesitant to venture into Rome, though...
 
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  • #9
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I would be hesitant to venture into Rome, though...
There is an old joke which sums it up. And it is not as ridiculous as it sounds, since it matches a narrative I heard from someone who actually has driven in Rome:

A taxi driver and his guest. First red traffic light: full speed across the intersection. Second red traffic light: full speed across the intersection. Third traffic light green: emergency brake! Guest: "What you're doing? Now you are allowed to go!" Cab driver: "Am I nuts? There will be my colleagues crossing from left to right!"

This certainly doesn't apply to wide boulevards, but may well happen in the suburbs or smaller streets with only few traffic.
 
  • #10
epenguin
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Good suggestion.

I have driven in Tuscany, including Florence and Pisa, and it was ok, but parking can indeed be difficult. I would be hesitant to venture into Rome, though...
Ordinary cars traffic is now forbidden or clamped down on in the centre of Rome, Check up about the ZTL (Zone Limited Traffic). Forget car, get about by public transport, buses, and taxis.
 
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  • #11
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Ordinary cars traffic is now forbidden or clamped down on in the centre of Rome, Check up about the ZTL (Zone Limited Traffic). Forget car, get about by public transport, buses, and taxis.
Vespa!
 
  • #12
RPinPA
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I've been to Italy several times but have never used a car so I can't comment on that. It was precisely because of worries about dealing with traffic, aggressive drivers and finding parking that we have always opted to get around by train. You are correct that this limits your ability to visit smaller towns. So I think I'd follow the suggestion to rent a car on those occasions when you are away from a city public transportation system.

On occasion I've been in a pedestrian zone in a city and still seen the occasional car come through, and not all of them were official vehicles. This confirmed to me that I don't understand the driving rules in Italy and have no desire to test them.

My travels have been in northern Italy, I have no experience whatsoever with the south such as Rome or Naples.
 
  • #13
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but parking can indeed be difficult.
In Italy there is no shortage of parking. Merely a shortage of imagination!
 
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  • #14
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I have been to Italy a few times. The trains between large cities (eg, Rome to Florence, or Florence to Venice) are very nice.

The last time my wife & I went to Tuscany, and rented a car. We have a GPS unit and uploaded the Italy maps before leaving home; this made driving in the country very easy. The roads are not well marked but the GPS worked perfectly. We could drive at random all day long, visiting small towns found along the way and then at the end of the afternoon the GPS would guide us right back to our hotel. Maybe you can do that today with a regular smartphone, I don't know.

Edit - I was told the police will ticket tourists for speeding, so I never really drove too fast. The natives drive like Fangio; when they zoom up from behind just maintain your pace and they will soon overtake. Dont be pressured into speeding.
 
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  • #15
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I was told the police will ticket tourists for speeding, so I never really drove too fast. The natives drive like Fangio; when they zoom up from behind just maintain your pace and they will soon overtake. Dont be pressured into speeding.
It is indeed a matter of being used to or not. I remember the following experiment: After driving in the US for two weeks, where it was me who feared to be pulled over for several reasons, not just the ticket, I decided to drive like that back home. It felt like being a rolling traffic obstacle, and I only maintained this kind of driving for a couple of days before I joined the gang again.
 
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  • #16
DrClaude
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The last time my wife & I went to Tuscany, and rented a car. We have a GPS unit and uploaded the Italy maps before leaving home; this made driving in the country very easy. The roads are not well marked but the GPS worked perfectly.
Good idea. I remember being in a roundabout in a somewhat industrial area near Florence and having to try and read ten signs to figure out if this was the right exit, and all that at night... Something like:
1565771665886.png
 
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  • #17
DrClaude
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In Italy there is no shortage of parking. Merely a shortage of imagination!
Yes. And one must rent as small a car as possible!
 
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  • #18
epenguin
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If you want an automatic gearbox better specify it, automatic is not automatic in Europe.
 
  • #19
mathwonk
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If the OP is still listening I have something to share/warn. When/if driving within towns, even small or medium towns, such as Lucca, there are many special restrictions on travel, such as apparently car - worthy streets that are nonetheless restricted to only pedestrians, marked of course only by signs in Italian, or loops in a city street that must not be traversed, or parking spaces that must not be used, except perhaps by those with special permits. Any violation is often met with a ticket issued automatically by a remote camera. Then several months after arriving home, one receives a citation or a warning of an impending citation, again only in Italian, and a referral to a website where one may be able to pay the fine, also written only in Italian.

In my case I received two such tickets, several months apart, for offenses I did not realize I had committed, and the initial warning letter only said to await an actual ticket. The ticket was then issued months later, after the amount of the fine had increased some 25-50%. I paid a total of some $360 for the two mystery violations. When I tried to consult my Italian host for possible assistance, before telling her my problem she first announced to me breathlessly, "Guess what happened to me! I was driving in Lucca when I got these incredible tickets, one for entering the wrong way and then another for exiting!" So I didn't bother to ask her help.

Bottom line; if visiting say Lucca, or really any touristic town, park outside the city and walk, only walk, within its walls. Camera issued speed tickets also probably exist on highways. Oh yes, car rental fees are much, much higher in Italy, since generous crash coverage is automatically included and your own insurance is worthless there. I think we paid something like $1500 a week ? in 2012, but we got a good car (an audi A4) and had a really good time. When visiting Rome I never used a car.
 
  • #20
pbuk
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When/if driving within towns, even small or medium towns, such as Lucca, there are many special restrictions on travel, such as apparently car - worthy streets that are nonetheless restricted to only pedestrians, marked of course only by signs in Italian
I think that's a bit of an overstatement - this only applies to a few historic locations such as Lucca, Sienna etc. where traffic and parking are, for obvious reasons, controlled within the narrow streets within the city walls. And these are always pretty well marked by pictographic signs as you can see on Google Maps.

And the same is the true just about anywhere in Europe - buildings that are over 100 (or 1,000) years old were not built on streets designed for cars.

I think we paid something like $1500 a week ? in 2012, but we got a good car (an audi A4) and had a really good time. When visiting Rome I never used a car.
Just had a quick look on line - Renault Clio USD140 a week including insurance and tax (Avis Rome Airport).

I don't think driving in Italy is much different from anywhere else in Western Europe: it is however very different from the US (not worse, in fact most European drivers take much more care than in the US, but the difference is they expect you to be just as careful, plus speeds are faster and roads smaller).
 
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  • #21
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it is however very different from the US
Indeed!

Ever since I've seen the traffic during rush hour in the middle of Madrid, I dream from driving there once. It was organized chaos but the logic was clear: A lane is where space is! I seriously doubt that inexperienced US citizens would be able to take part.

I guess rush hour in LA is similar, except that they obey the rules to a greater extent than they did in Madrid. But if you are not living in one of the big cities, traffic is indeed different. E.g.: When driving I don't fear the people who take risks and disrespect speed limits, no, I fear those who do respect them but don't know what to do next, the insecure ones! Those I know their next risky manoeuvre before they do.
 

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